Top Technology: iPad
Apple’s first iPad was greeted with skepticism
from analysts and the press until
it went on sale in early April and quickly
established a new product category,
drew competing brands and rival operating
systems into the market, and — like
the iPod and iPhone before it — had a
game-changing impact on related CE
product segments. The iPad created
accessory sales, created competition for e-readers and purpose-built homecontrol
touchscreens, and began to cannibalize netbook and laptop sales.
Top Newsmaker: Steve Jobs
Despite medical leaves of absence in 2009 and
2011, Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs was
on the job in 2010 to launch the iPad and do for
the tablet market what he did for the MP3 player
and smartphone markets. Jobs didn’t invent the
first MP3 player, but it was his iPod that drove
portable audio sales to never-before-seen sales
levels. He didn’t invent the first smartphone, but the iPhone ignited
smartphone demand and spawned the rival Android operating system.
And he didn’t invent the first tablet, but he found a new market for it by
repositioning it as a simple-to-use media-consumption device.
Top Technology: 3DTV
Although the launch of the first
3D high-definition TVs with support
for a new class of Blu-ray
Disc 3D players wouldn’t come
until March 2010, the industry
spent much of the year leading
up to the launch hyping the new technology to come. The effort
was given a welcomed boost when director/producer James
Cameron’s 3D sci-fi thriller “Avatar” set major box-office records
and whetted appetites for equipment that could bring the experience
home. Panasonic, Samsung and Sony struck deals with 3D
movie producers to support their forthcoming efforts.
Top Newsmaker: Barack Obama
During International CES, right before he took office,
President-elect Barack Obama pushed back the transition
to all digital television broadcasting from Feb. 17 to
June 12. Obama was concerned that millions of economically
hard-pressed Americans with analog TVs had not yet
received converter boxes to continue viewing free overthe-
air programming when the proverbial DTV switch was
thrown. The transition was eventually completed with less complication than
many had expected. Later, President Obama would push a national broadband
agenda with the Federal Communications Commission looking for affordable
technologies and policies to provide Internet access to all Americans.
Top Technology: Blu-ray
After a two-year format battle, Blu-ray
officially disposed of its rival HD DVD
when its primary backer, Toshiba,
dropped the format in February.
Blu-ray won when retailers such as
Walmart, Best Buy and Netflix, along with Hollywood studios,
chose it over the competition. The first Blu-ray players shipped in
Top Newsmakers: Circuit City & Tweeter
The slow demise of Circuit City and Tweeter
over the course of 2008 include lowlights such
as CEO Phil Schoonover stepping down in
September and the chain filing for bankruptcy
one month later. The end for the storied chain
came quickly. The chain owed more than $2.3 billion to creditors and was shuttered
and liquidated by March 2009. Tweeter’s end came even faster. It filed for bankruptcy
protection in November and ended up shuttering all its stores by mid December.
Top Technology: iPhone
As TWICE senior editor Joseph Palenchar wrote in our
July 2 issue, “The iPhone began redefining the smartphone
market even before its launch, and it may serve as
a lesson to a consumer electronics industry … that price
is not everything.” While consumers swooned over the
smartphone’s debut, retailers were dismayed to be left
out in the cold as it launched exclusively through Apple’s
stores and AT&T.
Top Newsmaker: Sirius XM
Mel Karmazin (right) was frequently in the headlines
when Sirius and XM formally confirmed in February
2007 what many in the industry had long suspected:
They intended to merge. The satellite radio companies
cited consumer choice and corporate cost
saving as the two primary reasons for the decision,
which ended up taking until March 2008 to be approved
by the Federal Communications Commission.
Top Technology: HD Optical Discs
A good old-fashioned
format war was the
highlight of 2006 with
two high-definition optical
disc formats: HD DVD, backed by Toshiba, Microsoft
and Intel, and Blu-ray, backed by just about everyone else in
the industry. In the end — right after the 2008 International CES –
Toshiba waived the white flag and another format war ended.
Top Newsmaker: Phil Schoonover
Phil Schoonover got his dream job – chairman, president and
CEO of Circuit City. Unfortunately it wasn’t 1996 or 1986
when Circuit was riding high. When Schoonover – a Sony,
Best Buy and Tops Appliance veteran – took control, the
winds of change were already buffeting the CE chain. The
chain posted an annual and Q4 loss in a year when CE overall,
led by HDTV sales, was booming. Things quickly spiraled
out of control with the chain closing its doors in 2009.
Top Technology: iPod
2005 saw the iPod fully integrate into the mainstream. Apple’s
profits soared as a result of the high sales numbers from the
line. In an effort to keep the streak alive, the manufacturer
moved to diversify its offerings with introductions of lowerpriced
models like its iPod Shuffle, as well as higher-end
models with extra features like the video-capable iPod.
Top Newsmaker: Mark Wattles
The former founder and CEO of Hollywood Entertainment caused quite
a stir in the industry as a result of his handling of Ultimate Electronics.
Shortly after he organized a takeover of Ultimate, the high-end CE retailer
was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Once the chain
was forced to liquidate in April, Wattles stepped up and took control of
the chain by purchasing 32 of the remaining 62 stores at $47 million.
Top Technology: Satellite Radio
The competition between XM and Sirius continued to climb as Sirius promised
to have 1 million subscribers by the end of the year and corralled Howard Stern,
while XM promised Major League Baseball. New products included the first satellite
radio unit with a 30-minute buffer (Delphi XM SkyFi2), and the first personal
plug-and-play receiver that could convert to a Walkman-style headphone stereo
with the addition of a snap-on rechargeable battery pack that included an antenna.
Top Newsmaker: Brad Anderson
Best Buy’s Brad Anderson helped unveil the
groundbreaking customer centricity format in
2004. The program altered the retailing giant’s
corporate culture by focusing on the most profitable
customer groups and by training the store
employees to provide better service to them.
This was the year that digital cameras outsold film
cameras, the first consumer-priced digital-SLRs
from Canon and Nikon were introduced, and the
first digital “single use” camera debuted. Digital
photography truly became mainstream.
Top Newsmaker: Gateway
Ted Waitt, founder and CEO of Gateway, drove the company aggressively
into brick-and-mortar retailing with the ill-fated Country
Stores and pursued a “disruptive” pricing strategy as it pushed into
consumer electronics business. Gateway’s CE in-roads mirrored the
other PC makers’ — notably Dell and HP — more aggressive stance
toward the consumer electronics market.
Top Technology: Peer-To-Peer Networking
The music industry fought back against illicit downloading via peer-topeer
networks such as Napster and Limewire by suing individual file
sharers and launching approved digital download services. Napster
was acquired by music giant Bertlesmann, in an $8 million deal, to be
converted into a paid service.
Top Newsmakers: CEA president Gary
Shapiro, FCC Chairman Michael Powell
The two men navigated the trenches of tuner mandates for
digital TVs. By year’s end CEA and the NCTA agreed on
standards for national digital cable interoperability and the first
cable-ready sets were previewed by Panasonic.
XM Satellite Radio
After years of planning and development, satellite
radio finally got off the ground (pun intended) with
the launch of XM Satellite Radio service in October,
led by CEO Hugh Panero (right).
Top Newsmaker: iPod
There were lots of worthy contenders in 2001: satellite radio, Windows XP,
GameCube and Xbox, to name a few. But top honors for this or any year must
surely go to Apple’s iPod, which made a less than auspicious debut on Nov.
10, 2001. At the time, industry observers liked its looks but figured that its
prohibitive $400 price tag and operational shackling to Macs and iTunes would
limit its popularity to hard-core Apple devotees.
Top Technology: Satellite Radio
In 2000, satellite radio was just getting off the ground. Literally. Both
Sirius and XM launched their first satellites that year, marking the initial
volleys in what would become, just a scant five years later, a $2.5 billion
business in subscription and receiver sales. In another milestone, XM
opened its 150,000-square-foot broadcast center in Washington and
demonstrated its first prototype satellite car radio.
Top Newsmaker: Bill Kennard
2000 was a watershed year for HDTV, when broadcasters, cable
operators, content providers and CE manufacturers agreed on
compatibility standards. It was no mean feat, and credit must go
to then Federal Communications Commission chairman Bill Kennard
(left) for cajoling, brow-beating and plain out threatening the
warring factions into some semblance of accord.
Top Technology: Sony Mavica
Sony’s Mavica digital camera totally dominated sales
in the digital camera category for the year.
Top Newsmaker: Carly Fiorina
Carly Fiorina became the first woman ever to head
a Dow 30 firm when she was named president of
Top Technology: HDTV
The Panasonic PT-56wfx90 HDTV went on sale at Dow Stereo/
Video in San Diego with a $5,499 price tag.
Top Newsmaker: Microsoft
300,000 units of Microsoft’s Windows 98 operating system sold
during its first three days on the market.
Top Technology: DVD
After numerous false starts, the DVD format finally arrived
when Samsung introduced a $699 player in February.
Top Newsmaker: Warren
Warner Home Video president Warren
Leiberfarb helped to navigate a successful
launch for the DVD format by ensuring that DVD
video titles were available for a staggered rollout.
Top Technology: DVD
Although ongoing copy-protection talks would ultimately delay the DVD
format’s release until the following year, manufacturers lined up prototypes
of players they would use to stake a claim to the new optical disc pie.
Top Newsmaker: Charlie Ergen
EchoStar chairman and founder Charlie Ergen helped change the future direction
of satellite-TV marketing when he launched an unprecedented $199
equipment promotion that required subsidizing equipment costs to land
subscribers to his fledgling Dish Network.
Top Technology: Windows 95
The multimedia home PC craze was exemplified by the
consumer demand and retail hoopla for the nationwide
“midnight madness” debut of Microsoft’s Windows 95
Top Newsmaker: The DVD Format
Member companies of the Super Density DVD group,
led by Toshiba, Matsushita, and the Multimedia CD group backed by
Sony and Philips, fought over the eventual, unified DVD format.
Top Technology: DSS TV
RCA’s Digital Satellite System (now known as DirecTV) ushered
in the era of digital television and an alternative
to broadcasting and cable services.
Top Newsmaker: Joe Clayton
Thomson Consumer Electronics veteran
Joe Clayton worked long and hard in 1994
to make the RCA Digital Satellite System’s
debut at retail a success.
Top Technology: The Internet
In 1993, the Internet was populated mainly by
early adopters. Modems were just starting to
become standard equipment on computers.
Top Newsmaker: Trip Hawkins
3DO president and CEO Trip Hawkins helped
lead the charge to create new multimedia video
Top Technology: Home PCs
The PC, fueled by Intel’s ubiquitous 486 processor,
was embarking on a meteoric rise, as it
entered mass merchants at price points less than
Top Newsmaker: John Sculley
The CEO of Apple led the charge in the birth of the low-cost PC and
the new handheld PDA.
Top Technology: Game Boy
Nintendo’s Game Boy grew into a $700 million
business and established the handheld portable gaming
system category as a profit center.
Top Newsmaker: Blockbuster
Video’s chairman H. Wayne Huizenga led
his six-year-old chain to a huge leap in the TWICE Regisrty
of Leading Industry Retailers, to No. 6, from No. 15,
increasing sales 78 percent to $1.1 billion.
Top Technology: Laser Disc
The battle over the term “laser disc” finally ended as Philips and
Pioneer settled on the generic term, allowing vendors and retailers
to use a single banner to promote the digital technology.
Top Newsmaker: RadioShack
RadioShack chairman John Roach led the CE retailing powerhouse
into the new decade with a nimble merchandising strategy
in budding categories such as plain-paper faxes, laser disc
players and personal computers.
Top Technology: Atari Lynx
The Atari Lynx became the world’s first handheld
video game system with a color screen.
Top Newsmaker: Crazy Eddie
Eddie Antar and other executives at New York
area retailer Crazy Eddie were charged with
fraud and insider trading by the SEC. The chain
eventually announced plans to file for Chapter 11.
Top Technology: Pioneer LD-W1 Dual-Disc Player
Pioneer launched the LD-W1 dual-disc laser disc player, the first two-disc laser disc
player to play each side of a disc without requiring consumers to physically flip it.
Top Newsmaker: Jerry Pearlman
Zenith chairman Jerry Pearlman implored Congress to subsidize American companies’
R&D into HDTV technology and thus help preserve the jobs created by the U.S. TV
set industry in the wake of an influx of low-price foreign-made TVs.
Top Technology: New Video Formats
Super-VHS VCRs and CD-Video players and software debuted. but
despite marketer promises, neither product made it to market in any
significant way in 1987.
Top Newsmaker: Jack Welch
GE chairman Jack Welch turned his company from an also-ran in
consumer electronics to the nation’s biggest marketer of color TVs and
VCRs in his deal for RCA, and then disposed of the business.
Top Technology: Stereo Color TV
Consumer demand for color TV with built-in stereo audio decoding
was strong, topping 1 million units sold by year end.
Top Newsmaker: Don Johnstone
Don Johnstone, president of North American Philips Consumer
Electronics, completed a two-year restructuring that put the
operation back into the black.